World Water Day: The key to sustainability is data

by Amy Sample Ward on March 22, 2012

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Today is World Water Day! While there are many, many organizations working on water-related issues all around the world, there’s one I want to highlight: Water for People. We know that you can’t resolve issues in your own community or another one with quick fix solutions; as social changemakers and nonprofits, we look for the sustainable opportunities for shifting systems for a better outcome and a better world. That’s why I love that Water for People is focused on sustainably improving conditions and access to clean water for all the communities they touch. How? Through data, of course!

FLOW: Field Level Operations Watch

FLOW is an on-site technology that broadcasts data instantaneously to the Water for People website/FLOW map providing important information about the operating status of WFP projects.

“Combining Android cell phone technology and Google Earth software, FLOW lets field workers, volunteers, our partners and others record data from tens of thousands of water points around the world. That information is then displayed on our online global map to signal whether a project is up and running, broken, or on the verge of disrepair and needs quick action.”

Accountability

Many organizations are working to find ways to show donors and supporters how their participation is transforming beneficiaries directly and as quickly as possible. With Water for People’s FLOW system, when they say a project is working, they can prove it to you! Just pick an area of the world and see for yourself!

I love to see projects that are focused on measuring and evaluating data about their work and progress. I love even more to see projects that make that data public so that everyone in the local community, in the organization, and around the world can measure and learn at the same time. I’m really excited to see what corollary projects or data sets can be incorporated into the FLOW system and map, too!

Sustainability

Two years ago, in Water for People’s strategic plan, they committed to at least ten years of post-project monitoring for every site to ensure that projects were successful and sustainable. “We will hold ourselves accountable for—and encourage our supporters and donors to hold us accountable for—making smart investments and data-driven decisions so that we can make a long-lasting impact.” I’m really encouraged about the potential to make life-saving and life-changing impact around the world when I see this kind of commitment from an organization, not just a philanthropic organization. Recognizing that as the direct service providers or project teams, we have the same level of responsibility to ensure our work actually works as we do to address issues in the first place is a major step in the right direction towards real change.

Read More

1. Check out the FLOW map: http://watermapmonitordev.appspot.com

2. Check out this great post from Water for People’s Senior Manager of Programmatic Data, Keri Kugler, on how they use FLOW to maintain accountability and allow communities to monitor their own water and sanitation published in National Geographic.

3. Visit the UN Water site for more information and resources about World Water Day, or see if there are events happening near you.

  • http://www.sm4good.com/ Timoluege

    Hi Amy. I’d refrain from shortening the NGO to “WFP” as that is commonly associated with the “World Food Programme”. I was confused for a moment.

    • http://amysampleward.org Amy Sample Ward

      Hi Timo-

      I didn’t think that in the context of the post it would be confusing but I will make the change. Thanks!